SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
 
  September 2010
Volume 11 Issue 10
 

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Life Cycle Assessment Advisory Group elects Steering Committee, initiates planning process

The North American Life Cycle Assessment Advisory Group (LCA AG) recently completed an election of a new steering committee. The committee, consisting of seven members balanced among academia, business and government, comes with a high level of expertise and experience in LCA along with connections to a variety of organizations developing advanced methods and performing assessment.

The new committee, working in concert with the membership, expects to develop and execute a strong plan for the AG to restore a high level of scientific activity and interaction with other LCA Groups in North America and globally.

An internal nomination process is ongoing to identify a chair and co-chair for the group. Confirmation and announcement of the new officers should precede our LCA AG meeting in Portland on Monday 8 November from noon to 2 p.m. Check the business meetings listing on the Portland meeting website at portland.setac.org/node/72 to confirm the meeting room and join the new committee to begin defining an exciting agenda for the future.

Please welcome these new leaders as they take up the challenge to shape the future of the LCA AG. The vision statement of each new member clearly conveys a high level of hope and excitement for the group:

Members from Business:

Chris Bradlee–BASF
Environmental LCA has become an integral part of the decision-making process in both governmental and business sectors and is essential to the proper application of sustainable development. My vision is to work through SETAC’s LCA AG to continuously improve the credibility and public acceptance of LCA as a means to reduce the environmental impacts of products and processes, and to promote collaborative efforts of LCA practitioners to improve the science and application of LCAs.

Lise Laurin–Earthshift
As a member of the SETAC LCA Advisory Group steering committee, I will encourage additional technical development in the areas of LCA. Examples of needed technical advancement include regionalization of impact assessment methods, improved guidance on allocation that leads to robust, temporally consistent conclusions, and dynamic LCA. In addition, I will continue to support areas already under investigation by SETAC, such as uncertainty in LCA and land and water use impact assessment methodology. As a member of both the steering committee and the advisory council of the American Center for LCA, I will help the two organizations collaborate appropriately and minimize duplication efforts as much as possible.

Annie Weisbrod–Procter & Gamble
The significance of my LCA projects is not the modeling but the communication of the results to guide sustainable business decisions and to inform the public about sustainable living behaviors. Although I feel that most of us doing LCAs want this kind of application as an outcome, the LCA AG has historically focused on method development, which has been necessary to get us to the reasonable modeling conditions we have today. New needs are arising that challenge the LCA community to do more and/or do different things. There are increasing demands by industries and governments for directions on how to be and what to do to be more sustainable. In my work, I see several insufficiently addressed needs that I would like the North America LCA AG to collaborate on more fully (e.g., life cycle inventory availability for new materials and for production, guidance on the appropriate use of LCA results that also considers uncertainty, use of LCA and other bases for sustainability assessment). In line with the AG mission statement, I will support the steering committee to brainstorm and select our top current, common needs across sectors, and align our strategies that we will work together to accomplish. I also feel it’s important to work on these common needs globally (with other SETAC geographic units/branches LCA AGs) and across organizations (like the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment and the International Society of Sustainability Professionals).

Members from Academia:

Pascal Lesage–CIRAIG (Interuniversity Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services)
Since the beginning of my involvement in LCA, my vision has been a “life cycle economy,” a world where all decisions—from consumers deciding which product to buy to governments deciding which policies to enact—are based on life cycle information. The recent upsurge in the demand for such information, the political and business climate, and the way consultancies and institutions are stepping up to meet this demand all indicate that such a world may not be far away.

I intend to help the advisory group (1) promote the development of data and tools that will make such life cycle information widely available in North America while also (2) fostering research and development projects aimed at making this information pertinent, transparent and scientifically credible. Specifically, the issues I hope to help the advisory group tackle include

  • availability of transparent and gate-to-gate LCI data, allowing use in many contexts and under different modeling paradigms (e.g., attributional or consequential approaches);
  • platforms for searching such LCI data, and the development of tools grounded in uncertainty analysis that help determine which dataset is most appropriate for a given use; and
  • development of LCI datasets and databases that are spatially differentiated and temporally explicit, to catch up to developments in LCIA.

Tom Seager–Arizona State University
The first 20 years of LCA has focused on developing reliable, objective methods for assembling and characterization of inventory data. Considerable progress has been made in this area, but less attention has been paid to the more subjective elements of LCA—namely, impact assessment. Especially when considering material or product life cycles where data are missing or highly uncertain, an improved understanding of impact assessment can help narrow data requirements or expense in the early stages of LCA. In my work with the advisory group, I will seek to partner with social science, risk analysis and operations research communities with expertise in decision-making under uncertainty to strengthen the tools available to LCA experts concerned with the impact assessment phase.

Members from Government:

Jane Bare–U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
I have noticed the recent decline in communication among researchers and practitioners within North America and globally but believe that now is a critical time in the development and application of LCA in our region. LCA is being utilized in a number of arenas, including sustainability metrics, green buildings, environmentally preferable purchasing and other environmental decisions.

From past experiences in ISO and SETAC document development, we have found that having a common goal, such as a new publication, results in increased communication among researchers and practitioners and advancement of the science. I propose that SETAC should again become the scientific body recognized within North America for state-of-the-art documents similar to the ones released within the LCA book series. Co-authors of such documents can include any interested researchers and/or practitioners who are willing to commit their time to this effort.

Additional work is needed, including a focus on the following:

  • land use and ecosystem services;
  • ecology, systems analysis, natural resource management and human health disciplines;
  • spatially resolved LCA;
  • LCA as a basis for sustainability assessment; and
  • application of LCA to LEED building standards.

Any of the above topics could be targeted for publication development. Increased communication can take the form of email exchanges, teleconferences and working group meetings (which are best when linked with existing forums like the SETAC North America annual meeting).

Scott Butner–U.S. Department of Energy, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Then, as now, my principal research interest focuses on the role of information management and knowledge management tools in making LCA a more useful tool for product and process designers, process development teams and other individuals who have the opportunity to utilize LCA during the formative stages of a new technology. While I feel that other applications of LCA in policy and procurement are important, the role that LCA can play in design is what most intrigues me.

I can bring together a historical perspective on LCA, with an understanding of current information technologies and software development practices. My goal on the steering committee is to help bring fresh ideas to SETAC’s efforts to cultivate and promote LCA as a discipline, and especially to promote the tighter integration of LCA and derivative analysis methodologies in the development of new technologies.

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